The youngest PoW held in Guantanamo
Compiled from various sources
4WardEverUK 10th August 2008
News updates listed at the foot of this item
In 2005 The U.S. military laid formal charges, including one of murder, against Omar Ahmed Khadr (then 19 years old), a Canadian citizen imprisoned at the U.S. military prison for suspected terrorists at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Omar was freed in December 2015. He was arrested in Afghanistan by the U.S. military in 2002, when he was only 15 years old.
They declared him an enemy combatant and shipped him to Guantanamo Bay. He is accused of throwing a hand grenade at U.S. soldiers. One soldier died in the alleged attack and three others were wounded, with one soldier losing an eye.
Khadr was “charged with conspiracy to commit offences triable by military commission; murder by an unprivileged belligerent; attempted murder by an unprivileged belligerent; and aiding the enemy,” said a U.S. Defense Dept. spokesman. An “unprivileged belligerent” is someone who isn’t a member of a regular army. Some of those charges could leave Khadr facing the death penalty.
Khadr was expected to face a military trial under a U.S. military commission. Critics have raised concerns about the commissions, saying they do not give detainees the same rights as civilian courts and that they violate the Geneva Convention. The U.S. Defense Department says Khadr has the presumption of innocence, has the right not to testify without inference of guilty and must be proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
However, Whitling said there are major procedural issues with these military commissions. Here are some of the defence concerns:
- The use of secret evidence and the ability of the commission to hear such evidence in the absence of both the defendant and his counsel
- The fact Omar Khadr committed his alleged crimes when he was only 15 years old
- The application of torture at Guantanamo Bay and the fact that any such evidence gathered would be admissible
- Khadr was denied counsel while being interrogated
- His capacity to respond because his physical and mental health have deteriorated
- The lengthy delay between the alleged offence and the date charges were laid.
- Limited ability to marshall evidence and call witnesses
Dan McTeague, parliamentary secretary for Canadians abroad said; “Foreign Affairs Canada is very aware of this case for obvious reasons, “We’ve had some visits with him in Guantanamo Bay. What’s important for us at this point is to ensure that he has access, obviously, to appropriate legal counsel so that he does have an opportunity to defend his case appropriately under international law.”
Grainy video images of the 2003 interrogation of tearful Canadian detainee Omar Khadr at the US military prison in Guantanamo Bay have given the Canadian public a rare glimpse of a young man who has become a polarising figure in his home country. The video tape, made public by order of a Canadian court, showed Mr Khadr during four days of questioning by Canadian intelligence agents.
Mr Khadr’s Canadian lawyers said they hoped to gain public support to renew pressure on the Conservative government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper to demand the return of the young Canadian, now aged 21 (2008).
“It is beyond comprehension that Prime Minister Harper continues to tolerate the treatment of a Canadian citizen in this manner,” said Nathan Whitley, one of Mr Khadr’s lawyers, who accuses the US military authorities of torturing a confession from the wounded teenager. “It’s time for this travesty to stop and for Omar Khadr to come home to Canada to face justice under Canadian law.”
Omar Khadr’s sister, Zaynab Khadr, said that she was not optimistic his situation would improve in the near future.
She noted that another brother, Abdullah Khadr, currently in prison in Canada awaiting extradition to the US on charges of gun-running and conspiracy to murder Americans abroad, was interrogated by Canadian agents despite allegedly having been abused during his detention in Pakistan.
“He was tortured for their benefit and he still continues to be in jail and it hasn’t changed much, so I can’t expect it to be any different in Guantanamo,” she said.
In 2014 the Nobel Peace Prize winner and human rights activist added a small personal task to his busy schedule. After a press conference on Friday May 30, Tutu found a quiet corner and placed a phone call to Bowden prison where Omar Khadr, 27, held in Guantanamo prison for 10 years, was waiting.
Tutu has been a vocal critic of the U.S. military Guantánamo prison in Cuba, a place of torture where prisoners have no legal rights. It was established after the horrifying 9/11 terrorist attacks.
The prison, Tutu has said, has disturbing similarities to draconian powers wielded by white police under apartheid when blacks were held without charges, were abused and some died in prison in South Africa.
Omar Khadr one step closer to justice
10 July 2014
Desmond Tutu reaches out to Omar Khadr
7 June 2014
A decade in detention for former child soldier
27 July 2012
Coming of age in a Guantanamo Bay jail cell
23 June 2009